capturing happy

There have been a lot of blogs and videos popping up lately about being grateful and expressing  gratitude. Especially as it relates to people who have overcome tragedy or experienced a loss that has shaken their ability to be happy and feel happiness. I came across one last week that made me think deeply about what it means to be grateful and how I could maybe start to play with that idea in order to try to keep moving forward through what have been some rollercoaster times the last while. With the Winter Solstice just passed I have been searching for a way to celebrate the new start that it brings within me and the chance to begin something that will grow over the next year.

 

Grateful has always been a word that I have had a hard time embracing. My personal take on the word is that it insinuates that you are grateful, or thankful, to someone or something. Whether that is a spiritual belief in god or more vaguely, the universe, it leans towards giving thanks in a specific direction. Just never really found a place in me that the concept resonated with me in a way that I felt it should. Yet at the same time, I see and understand the concept and wanted to find a way to make it mean something to me as I start this new year.

 

Living with grief and finding happiness with grief and loss as a part of day to day life is rough. Some days it’s harder than others to find something that makes me smile. There are days that it feels like all I’m doing is just putting one foot in front of the other, and that isn’t how I want to live. That isn’t what I want for the rest of my life. There are other days though that are filled with joy and smiles and being happy that I’m here to live that day and have those moments. Those days are happening more and more. What’s also there is that even on the hard days, I am starting to be able to see the little things within those days that give me even a little something the be glad that I’m there to experience.

 

So the new year has started for me and with it, the chance to be aware. To purposely look for, and record, the happy in every day. Even on, especially on, those days that don’t seem to have any. A project for myself more than anything else. A picture every day to show myself that not only have I acknowledged that moment but that when I think there aren’t things to smile about I can look back and see that indeed there are.

 

Sometimes it’s hours lived loudly and fully and being so full of life that I want to scream. Sometimes it’s merely a little smile at the pretty sunset as I walk home quietly along the oceanfront. It doesn’t matter whether it’s big or small, just that it’s there, and it is.

 

Sometimes it’s laughter and not tears

A gathering lately of friends -people who are, oddly, not necessarily closely connected yet are also,more close than can be explained. Tribe. Family. A weekend that words don’t really do justice.

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Words that still elude me trying to bring essence to the awareness of my experience. A soft knowing that happened in a moment when a smile broke out instead of tears. When I knew that, at that moment, healing meant laughter and silliness and the elation of flying and sharing space with a few amazing women. An oddly secluded and intimate space of time, safe, secure, simple and easy and just… yes. No words. Just feeling.

Feeling that in welcoming joy in, it wasn’t going to be with tears and pain. The wind blowing in my hair and ruffling my skirt around my legs as I giggled and joked and connected – with my Self – and more importantly with the people who I was blessed to be with during that time. The wind and the sunshine, the calmness and the joy in the women with me, the water, the trees, the dirt, the rock that brought me back to my senses even, all of it bringing feeling back.

Words try, but they can’t tell what has to be felt and seen with the heart instead of the mind. Sometimes it takes something so deeply in your body to take you so deeply out of it.

Unguarded

Since 2001 I have run with the same hat. A security blanket disguised as practicality. I have been known to chose to not run rather than to go out without it. A simple plain white cap that has so many simple plain reasons for always being with me as I run.

It shields my eyes from the sun… I can’t’ run with sunglasses on. Perfectly practical.

It keeps my face covered from the sun. Pale skin that burns easily, just being responsible.

When it rains and the wind is heavy it shelters my head and offers me some protection from the harsh elements.

As my hair has become long it is a handy place to tuck it up under and keep it contained so it stays out of my face and under control.

It’s simply….Practical and responsible and perfectly under control. Safe. From what. From being open to the elements and unprotected. It keeps me guarded…shielded…sheltered.

As my evening unfolded tonight it brought with it a growing feeling of the familiar unsettled gnawing. Not quite anger but close enough. Emotions that can’t quite come to the surface as what they are so they growl and writhe and start to whisper.

The familiar urge to run… to chase them down and push them away rises. Giving in, the water is where my sight sets to find some calm and release.

But tonight something else unfolds as I reach the water. The waves are huge tonight with the wind on the narrow beach that I find myself after my run. I stand and reach down to feel the water on my hands. It creeps higher up the beach than I thought it would and my feet are enveloped. The cold and shock feel good. My hands tingle from the cold and my entire body aches to go in. Instead, I stand, close my eyes and the tears come. I lift my arms and feel the wind moving around and over me. The emotions I can’t quite touch finds their voices and the scream feels good lost in the waves. I can feel the wind blowing and I reach up and take my hat off, letting my hair loose. The wind catches my hair and the chill send shivers through me…

Racing as fast as I can up the steps from the beach to the trail… hat in hand, feet soaked and hands almost numb from the water I splashed on my face as I left… This time as I run the trail along the cliff top the wind blows hard against me again, but differently. The change in how it feels to run with hair being blown in my face and to feel – really feel – the chill and the bite of the wind is striking. My pace quickens and I run as fast as I can… the sense of being not quite fully in control hasn’t been felt in a long time…and it feels good. A little scary, but good. Laughing, smiling, tears… what comes up is let out as I race myself along the shore until I’m winded and have to slow to an easy run. I settle and find my stride at a softer pace as I follow the path that leads away from the water and towards home.

Hat still off and hair flying as it’s blown by the blustery wind…No longer guarded, no longer sheltered and shielded. Open to the elements and feeling.
It feels good.

Thank You

Thank you to the lies. You have taught me to be more mindful with where I place my trust.

Thank you to the pain. You have allowed me to see what I can endure.

Thank you to deception. You have shown me to question and to not just accept.

Thank you to the struggles. You have proven to me my ability to overcome.

Thank you to emptiness. You have made me appreciate when my heart and my arms are full.

Thank you to sadness. You have shown me the joy in simple happiness.

Thank you to grief. You have shown me to appreciate and be thankful for my life.

Thank you to loneliness. You have shown me how to love being alone.

Thank you to hatred. You have helped me learn to let go.

Thank you to my darkness. You have shown me how to love the depth of it as a part of me.

Thank you to the days that felt like they would never end because of the hurt. You have taught me to savour the days that go by too fast.

Thank you to the ugliness of life. You have allowed me to see the beauty that is life as well.

A look at good rather than not-so-good

There have been alot of years ( A LOT) that I have ended the year with a very heartfelt “fuck you” to the months past. This is not one of them.

There’s the good versus the not-so-good scales being reviewed this morning in my head and my heart.

To be honest, 2014 was not a great year in many ways.
As far as personal relationships with others went, it was a year of ups and downs of pretty torrential hell at times. Sure, there were also times that I felt such tremendous love and connection that I smiled inside but it was filled with pain and hurt and pretty much wanting to swear off ever being involved with anyone again.

It as a year though, that I made huge gains in my personal relationship with my Self and that is a good balance to keep in mind.

But, looking back, it was also a year that held many highs rather than lows. Sometimes I have a hard time seeing the good but this isn’t one of those times.

2014 was the year that I set some significant physical goals for myself… and achieved them.

It was a year that in which I did things I didn’t think I could, and I’m owning the pride that I deserve to feel for that.

It was a year that I accomplished some things that people said I couldn’t.

It was a year that brought times of absolute joy in my life and for that I’m grateful.

It was a year of experiencing things that made my spirit soar and my heart feel open again.

It was a year of new experiences and new connections to see grow and flourish in the next.

It was a year that held a lot of good.

It was a year that helped me believe that more like that , and better even, are possible.

So goodbye 2014, you haven’t been all bad and for that I’m thankful.

Good enough isn’t good enough

There comes a time in life when you look around and take stock and have to be honest with what and where you are.

Birthdays are that for me. Having just had one, it’s was a time to reflect and analyse.

I’ve had a life that was, at times, nasty and rough and hell to wake up to. This same life has had moments that took my breath away, times that I simply could not have been any happier without bursting was how I felt. Lots of times of just middle of the road “ok” as well. We all have. I know what it’s like to be miserable and unhappy in the truest meaning of those words. I count my blessings that my life is pretty good now. I have a lot to be thankful for – and I am.

So what’s worse than “bad”? It’s becoming complacent with less than what you really want. Becoming accepting and tolerant of the unacceptable.

So I asked myself what’s so unacceptable in my life? Settling. Not going hard for what I want. What I desire. Having dreams and goals and not making them happen.

I’m tired of listening to my Self desire and to seeing my Self no further towards the realization of that.

It’s easier to look around and say “it’s pretty good”. My son said to me the other day that he wonders who he thinks he is to feel that he should have it better than other people… That made me reply swiftly that not just him, but everyone, deserves – seriously deserves – the best and to have dreams and goals come to fruition. Then I had to sit back and wonder why I wasn’t necessarily living that sentiment myself.

I have been, for a couple of years now, allowing myself to start to grieve the death of my dreams as I get older. Shelving some aspirations as unrealistic or unachievable. Telling myself to stop dreaming and smarten up and just enjoy what I have and not desire anything else. There’s always something that comes up and demands energy and focus… and I allow that “something” to be not Me. I allow that “something” to take that focus and energy in entirety…leaving nothing for me to draw from to make happen what I want to happen.

I get slightly infuriated with myself when I take time to look at where I am with regards to achievements. Knowing that I am the only reason why I haven’t progressed further. Time to change that.

I look at travel options and lifestyle choices and I ponder and I think “one day” or “maybe” to things that I want, things that speak to me living my truths. Then I face the “why not?” … and the only answer is for me to get off my ass and make it all happen. No more waiting, no more “one day”. We all have a finite number of days and we don’t usually know what that magic number of them is, so….

Good enough isn’t good enough anymore. A nice life is nice…but I want one that sweeps me off my feet and leaves me breathless and grinning and saying “again!”. It’s my life, time to craft it, nurture it and make it that way.

The Seeking Spirit

I came across a term today that struck me and inspired me to put to words something that has been on my mind for the last year or so.
“The asking animal”, a term used to describe the human animal. What it is that makes us different from the other animals that we share nature with. Got me thinking though… are we all “asking”, or as I phrase it, seeking?

There are those of us who are seekers. Those who hunger and thirst for the “why” and for so much more that the status quo in life. Those who aren’t content with just accepting. Those who see where they are, not as the destination, but as just part of the journey. Not to say that this is the same as being always looking for the next best thing or the greener grass just on the other side of the fence. I’m talking about seeking and journeying towards more intangible gains. The striving to understand, to grow and become “more”. To desire to expand and experience rather than to be complacent. The wanting to be a better Self, a more aware Self, a more realized and actualized Self.

There are those who simply exist and bumble along in their lives. Like someone who simply drifts in the canoe down the river while the oars rest in the bottom of the boat. Maybe enjoying the ride and even looking around and appreciating the view. Happy with the direction of travel but not in control of where they go or how they get there even. They never wonder if there is a different stream to travel; one that might offer an alternate environment. They never think to take time to rest in a nook, to get out of the current for a bit. They never pick up the oars. They never even think to, never mind act on the thought. They never think of the even more radical idea of getting out of the boat altogether and striking out on foot for the mountain in the distance. The live aimlessly and complacently with whatever comes their way.

It didn’t take me long to realize that the option of simply drifting isn’t for me. Seeking and growing is who I am and how I live my life. It goes beyond just acknowledging that I am in control of my reactions to what comes my way. It’s an awareness that , in most ways, I can orchestrate how my life is lived and experienced. I may not always have control over what comes my way, but the reality is that I, we, have more input than we think we do.

To seek, to yearn and be in a constant state of growth. This is who I am. Life took a bit of a veer off for me in my twenties as I stumbled through a bad marriage and trying to live as I “should” but about 15 years ago, I made a choice to change the way I was living. I embraced who and how I am. Embraced that the striving and constant yearning to seek is me…and that it’s how I need the people who I keep close to me to be as well.

This past couple of years, living with grief and pain and finally seeing that I am the builder of my life, again. Putting it back together again after it had been torn apart by loss. Part of that entailed rediscovering that my Self craves holding the rudder and oars of my vessel. That it’s who I am. That I am happiest when the people I hold dear to me not only accept but share this embodiment of living. Choosing to cultivate relationships with the people in my life as purposely as I need to craft the rest of my environment for my Self to live. Making choices in drawing closer to those who grow and feed my spirit through friendship, chosen family and loves. Persons who support me and nurture me and accept me, as I do for them. The joy of being with those who lift me up and who I delight in seeing thrive in their travels through life. Hard choices also being made to release from my life those who merely drift and whose path encumbers mine in an unhealthy and suffocating manner. Understanding that for some, the oars will never be used and it’s time to wish them well and watch them drift away.

It means being happy and content with what and where I am but knowing that to stagnate here and to stop yearning and growing and opening my mind and my heart is to die.

Holiday Traditions

Dinner this evening marks something for me that’s both good and hard.

This will be the first turkey dinner, or any holiday dinner, that I’ve cooked since December 2011. December 2011 was the last family dinner that I cooked. It was the last holiday that I was together with all of my children. Willie died less than 2 months later and life has gone sideways in so many ways since then.

Between Willie dying and me moving and the other boys feeling scattered to the winds, family dinners and holidays in general have just been too much hurt to even want to try to get through. I also had the great excuse that my oven in my rental unit was unpredictable and hence, no turkeys. A new oven and now that excuse is gone and I’ve had to face the real reasons.

I readily admit that I have always been someone who loves holidays. Christmas was a great one because the kids were off school for so long and my work would wind down so there was tons of time to just hang out together and have fun and relax. Being not religiously inclined and not materialistic, it wasn’t about the “traditional” aspects for me (and I tried to make it as non-commercial as I could muster for the boys). Presents were second fiddle to the breakfast on Christmas morning and the dinner and the simple laying around watching movies or going for walks and seeing the neighbourhood covered in snow and quiet from all the usual business. Loved it. Since Willie died, Christmas has been as non-existent as I can make it. The new normal is so far removed from what it was and what made it great that I haven’t even wanted to try to make new traditions. That’s slowly changing I think. The hurt isn’t as acute now and I see that, while it’ll never be the same, it can be great still, just different.

Thanksgiving this weekend has hit me surprisingly hard though. It has always been a small and pretty easily whipped through holiday. I’ve loved it because it always heralded the oncoming fall slow down and wrap up to the big “ahhh” of Christmas holidays. A starter pistol so to speak. Not to mention that I love to cook a big dinner and Thanksgiving was just another reason to pull out the morning cinnamon buns and get the house steamed up with turkey smells.

This year I have my second oldest son living with me and the seemed a reason to maybe toss out the idea of doing a dinner. He loved the idea and I jumped on board. Momentarily excited and loving the idea. Don’t get me wrong here, I DO love the idea. But I hadn’t realized what emotions it would stir up. A very much needed shopping trip last night and the snowball of emotions is under way…

Shopping first for a turkey and, after wandering to the monster sized birds, realizing that for just myself and Son 2, I wouldn’t need 25lbs. Over to the smaller birds and realizing again that it seems so altered. What in the world do I do with a 10 lb bird? It looks just simply wrong. Oh well, on to the fixings to make the rest of it happen. A reality hit that I have no spices in the house, more things to purchase. Aisle after aisle and a strange feeling of familiarity and oddness mixed. It’s all the same – the potatoes, the gravy, the seasonings, bakery bread for stuffing, onions… – all the same but so fundamentally NOT the same now. As I wander to get butter I see the pressure canned cinnamon buns and tears pop up. Twice a year those would be breakfast (rarely more than that). Thanksgiving and Christmas morning, Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. Resplendent in their chemical and manufactured yumminess. A tradition from when the boys were tiny little kidlets that has become a sense of must-have for them on these dates. I picked it up and it was coming home with me.

So I sit here this morning, smelling the cinnamon rolls that just came out of the oven. Listening to the shower of Son 2 as he putters and gets ready. The dichotomy of loss and what I still have spins me from the inside out and I wonder when will it get easier to just enjoy what is here and not feel, so profoundly, the pain of what’s not anymore.

Untangled

Untangling. Yes, just simply, that’s it. Trying to find a word that captures the feelings this past while and that is it. Taking a mess of jumbled and tangled everything and slowly picking away, twisting and turning… a pull here, a tug there, ooops, that made it worse. Backtrack a bit, try another way … then that moment when you feel it start to loosen and give way. Just when you start to think that it’s a lost cause, it starts to come undone; it untangles.
Seemingly randomly at times but the truth is that it was because of the effort put in…the trying and the re-trying and the futile feeling attempts. Sometimes near tears of frustration and wanting to just give up and toss it out, now you hold that smooth, long expanse in your hands and smile. You can put it down now and stop worrying it and move forward.

10 Things I Learned From Mudd, Sweat and Tears

1. Don’t ignore the obvious.

Seriously, this sounds like it should be, well, obvious, but it so wasn’t for me. Mount Washington Alpine Resort. Mount – meaning mountain (should’ve been my first inclination that there might, just might, be an incline). Alpine – just in case I missed the “Mount” in the location name. Seemingly redundant but apparently I missed both… 1200ft of elevation gain in the first 3km and sucking wind from the oxygen difference between my sea level training and the race course and this was hammered home. Lesson learned. Next…

 

2. My negative committee that resides in my head CAN be silenced, and fairly easily actually. A mountain and mud and fatigue are all that are required. Who would’ve thought.

 

3. Self doubt isn’t as strong as self confidence.

When I dropped a laptop on my foot less than 12 hours before aforementioned race, breaking a toe, bruising my foot and leaving it bleeding, it wasn’t my self doubt that was the first voice in my head. It was the voice that said loud and clear “no big deal, you got this. we’ll just do it with a broken toe, no big deal. now get some ice. and tape.” This was a surprise to me, a welcome surprise.

 

4. “Team” isn’t a four lettered word.

Okay, well, actually, it is. But that’s not what I mean. I signed up as a solo race competitor for a race that is well known as a TEAM event. Why? Because I am superwoman. Not really, but I act like it sometimes. Thinking I can do everything alone and that I don’t need help. Ever. Simple lesson, I am wrong. I cannot, really cannot, boost my own ass over a 10 ft vertical wall that has no hand holds. I needed someone to help. Which brings me to…

 

5. Accepting help is not admitting weakness.

Ooh, tough one for me and I’m still cringing when I type this to be honest. At a point near the end of the race, on an obstacle of climbing over bales of hay, a Team member (me and another solo racer were “adopted”) offered me a hand. The first words out of my mouth were “no, I’m okay” followed quickly by “yes, thanks” when I realized I didn’t have to do it alone. Sniffle, tears…

 

6. Mind over matter really works.

I was shocked when, thinking back, I realized that not once – at all – did I ever say to myself “I can’t”. The internal mantra wasn’t self defeating, it was empowering. The whole time. It was physically one of the most demanding things I’ve ever done. But mentally and emotionally – I was going to do this, no matter what. And that was what carried me through, not my limping run on injuries and dead tired arms. It was will and spirit.

 

7. Stop to smell the roses.

Halfway up the initial climb; panting and silent, heads down and just going and one of my adopted Team mates says loudly “Just look at that view”. We all stop and steady ourselves… breath coming in and out hard… swaying slightly as we balance on the steep incline on loose rocks and dirt… and we look. And it’s beautiful. An expanse of clouds and mountain and a little lake (which we later pulled ourselves across on ropes, we didn’t know that then though). A moment of peace and quiet and admiration for where we were and just how amazing this experience was (and how flipping high up we were!). Another racer went blazing past us with a quip that it was a race and what were we doing… his loss. He may have finished ahead of us but we got that moment.

 

8. Laughter makes everything easier – or at least more tolerable.

During said ascent and one of the adorably perky Team mates suddenly breaks into the Lego song “Everything is Awesome!”. A moment of giggles and silly exactly when it was most needed. I’ll always be thankful that I can find laughter.

 

9.Mud is fluid and can get in places it should never be.

This is self explanatory and ‘nuff said, eeeeew.

 

10. I can do anything.

I just needed a reminder, and this was it.

 

On to the next challenge now. With giggles and knowledge that nothing is out of reach. And that a race course with the word “Mount” in it’s location WILL have hills. 🙂

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